Many children struggle with learning disabilities that can hinder their ability to process and understand information. Dyscalculia is a developmental disorder that involves difficulty conceptualizing and performing mathematics. The following are several practical ways that parents can help a child who struggles with dyscalculia.
- Play With Dominoes
Playing games that use dominoes can help a child more easily understand simple math concepts. Specialist Ronit Bird states that a child should learn to recognize the number patterns on the dominoes and dice instead of counting the individual dots each time. Start by using dominoes and dice by themselves so your child feels comfortable with these objects. Next, find a game your child enjoys that uses these items.
- Resist Using Worksheets
Whenever possible, parents should play games with their children to reinforce math facts instead of relying on worksheets. Games are almost always more interesting for kids. They present math as fun challenges to solve instead of boring concepts to memorize. If worksheets are used, it may be necessary to highlight important numbers in the instructions and throughout various problems. Allow your child to use a variety of colored pencils when completing worksheets, as it may help them more easily organize their work.
- Use Manipulatives
Seeing and handling a tangible object will help a child better understand the abstract principles of mathematics. Legos and simple blocks can be used to teach addition and subtraction. TheSchoolRun.com suggests using a counter when working with children. Actually covering a certain number of counters with your hands will enable your child to more easily visualize different groups of numbers.
- Learn the Language of Math
Parents should encourage their child to talk out loud as they work through a problem or new math concept. Children who struggle with math may have good language skills that could help make the mathematical process easier. It's a good idea for children to learn several synonyms for a variety of math terms. For example, when discussing addition problems they could use terms such as "plus," "increase" and "more than." Explain basic terms to your child and allow them to talk about each definition, describing what it means in their own words.
- Create Visual Models
While this is similar to using manipulatives, creating visual models can expand beyond working with basic handheld objects. Understood.org advises moving around large objects in a room or drawing pictures to vividly explain aspects of math problems. Even simple household objects such as different colored socks or pairs of shoes can be used to teach addition and subtraction.
- Use Accommodations
Accommodations can include everything from circling keywords in math sentences to giving your child extra paper to work out math problems. You should also discuss with your child's teacher accommodations that can be implemented at school. A few include extra time given for tests and access to a math resource room if one is available. The school may also allow a child with dyscalculia to use a calculator when working on daily math problems as well as tests.
- Teach Toward Understanding
While learning math can be broken into sections, it's always a good idea to have the end goal in mind. Memorizing facts -- such as multiplication tables -- is a good idea, but simply memorizing facts won't always lead to real understanding of a math concept or process. Start by instructing your child to reason through a problem using logic instead of rote memorization. It's also a good idea to memorize a few basic strategies that have wide application.
While each one of these strategies may not work with every child, finding even a few that do will likely go a long way in helping a child build their math skills. It's important for parents to acknowledge the struggles and praise the progress that's achieved with each new skill that their child masters.